“Instead of taking multiple measures, we want to leapfrog [HFCs], and this is why we have decided to adopt CO2 technology,” said Shinichirou Uto of Lawson, whose ambition is to become the world’s leading end user of natural refrigerants.
That simple message will be applied to the company’s 10,000-plus stores in Japan, of which a further 750 were fitted with CO2 technology in 2015. Lawson plans to open a further 1,000 stores per year, all of which will use natural refrigerants.
However, the huge increase in the number of Lawson stores and the considerable energy efficiency savings the company has achieved with its CO2 technology are out of sync with the ongoing benefits provided by a Japanese Environment Ministry subsidy scheme.
Should Japan’s subsidy scheme be discontinued, it remains to be seen whether Lawson will continue to introduce natural refrigerant technology at the same rate, and whether this will have implications for other retailers – not to mention natural refrigerant markets in neighbouring regions.
Spreading technology expertise abroad
In 2013, Lawson started exporting cutting-edge Japanese CO2 technology to developing countries like Indonesia, which mainly uses coal-fired thermal power. Lawson launched the ‘CVS Energy Saving Project in Indonesia’ with the help of the Japanese Economy Ministry and its Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM) funding programme.
Through cooperation with PT Midi Utama Indonesia, a major Indonesia-based retail company, Lawson introduced LED lighting and air conditioners incorporating CO2 refrigeration systems to stores in the ‘Alfamidi’ minimarket chain.
In a first ATMO appearance for the Indonesian retailer, Yohanes Santoso, operating director at PT Midi Utama Indonesia, stated that Lawson had now helped the company to fit 13 CO2 stores in Jakarta.
We are very proud to be the first Southeast Asian food retailer to use CO2 refrigeration systems,” Santoso said.
Alfamidi has over 1,000 stores in Indonesia and plans to open a further 12 natural refrigerant-based stores with Lawson in 2016, featuring reach-in freezers, walk-in chillers and open case cabinets.
A case study of two stores in Jakarta found that an average of 20% energy savings leads to a 15% increase in average sales. However, Santoso stated that the challenge of high investment costs for CO2 technology had yet to be properly addressed in Indonesia.
“CO2 (technology) must be imported and it is very expensive. Also the spare parts are expensive, as they are the first one s (on the market in Indonesia),” he warned.
Lawson, which operates in Japan, China, Indonesia, the US (Hawaii) and Thailand, aims to achieve 20% energy savings in each store by 2020 (using 2010 as the baseline). It has also implemented showcases with doors in Japan, a scheme it intends to introduce globally.